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Two mega forces are working to dislodge us from our comfort zone, changing the way we work and live.

The way Industry 4.0 will impact our life and livelihood

The Covid-19 pandemic is a stealthy intrusion, surprising everyone, the high and mighty policy makers included. It is a force of indiscriminate massacre and mass destruction. Mankind is forced into hiding. For the first time, even in places where there is no war. The exhibition of its stealth, speed and power leaves man scrambling for crude instruments of protection. After months of its mindless rampage, there is still no messiah. There is none who is firm and certain on how to block this rogue move by nature nor how to neutralize its inflictions.

Surely, the health gods must surely be embarrassed. Bill Gates did have a presensation that such a hit is coming. His fault is that he did not have the firepower to influence the world’s mighty to buck up and take his anticipation seriously. Or did he?
For the first time, in a long time, the still presiding tech gods are left toothless. Other than this evil fireball, they seem to have a gadget, a gizmo or a gargantuan idea to counter every threat or enhance every condition of the human life. For this major power play, they do not even have an erection to show.

Were they listening to Bill Gates, when he spoke at a TED talk in 2015? After all, he was one of their senior gods. Maybe not. Maybe yes but the opportunities were not sexy enough to hold their attention. Maybe there is something sexier and more rewarding. Do you know?

Would Industry 4.0 fit their bill? Maybe. Possibly. Does it matter what inspires them? You should pay attention. The 4th industrial revolution, like the pandemic, is a force you can’t resist. Like the pandemic, it will create new norms.
Unlike the pandemic, which is destructive destruction, this is a creative destruction play. This is deliberate and suppose to take you along instead of taking you down.

Get Close, No Mask

Let’s get closer to Industry 4.0. Without the mask. Let’s get the exposure. Let’s get infected. With hope and possibilities. Then, when we are lured out of our hiding places, ready to hunt for a viable means of livelihood, we are savvy, to turn our nose in the right direction.

The 4th. Industrial Revolution is a disruptive movement that will fundamentally change the way we work and live. It is a rewiring of the way we work to rewrite the way we live. In motion. And, it's coming at you. Are you ready?

Extreme digitization and automation fior Smart Factories
Since its initiation by Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWI) in 2011, to secure and develop the nation’s leading position in industrial manufacturing, the momentum of this industrial revolution is gathering at an ever faster pace.

At a very high level, the development towards Industry 4.0 is about the integration of cyber physical system (CPS) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance productivity, efficiency and flexibility of production processes. the pursuit of the ‘Smart Factory’ capabilities.

Even more succinctly, UBS, in a whitepaper to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2016, labels the development as a shift towards ‘extreme automation and connectivity.’ In the forward of the white paper, UBS acknowledges that “The global economy is on the cusp of profound changes that are comparable in magnitude to the advent of the first industrial revolution, the development of the assembly line production, or the invention of the micro-chip.”

The global financial services company proposes the growing role of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in business, government and private life. It also sees ever deeper and faster communication between human and machines, and among ourselves. This ‘extreme connectivity’ will neutralize the obstacle of distance and time in our transactions.

The pace of the momentum towards ‘extreme automation and connectivity’ in global manufacturing can be sensed by the market growth of these key industry products.

In a blog for Singapore’s Economic Development Board, a senior executive of Swiss automation giant ABB, quotes the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimate that 422,000 industrial robots were installed worldwide in 2018, at a cost of $ 16. 5 billion, trending to almost 600,000 units in four years, a 50% growth in the deployment!
An industry PR newswire forecasts that the market for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips to grow 350% to US $ 47.5 billion by 2027.

The Promise of Industry 4.0

So, why the love for extreme automation and connectivity? Why are the biggest economies in the world hopping onto the Industry 4.0 bandwagon? Why are the biggest manufacturing companies throwing money into building the Smart Factories?
The holy grail; unprecedented level of returns through breakthrough productivity and efficiency. Relatively slow and cumbersome human interventions will almost be nonexistent.  Machines and systems take over, communicating and engaging intelligently to coordinate production processes autonomously. Machines, equipped with advanced sensors predict failures and trigger maintenance processes autonomously. This results in true just in time maintenance, enhancing optimal uptime of the machines. The key word is autonomous. Cutting the slack off human intervention.

Logistical ability to react to unexpected changes in production requirements is engineered into these smart machines. These magnificent manufacturing component tools would be able to control each other vertically, through the entire value chain and, horizontally across the entire factory or geographical network to deliver the desired results. A critical advantage of the new smart systems is that they can also provide management with real time insight into the status of production parameters.

The extreme digitization of industry and business, transforms value creation dynamics. Extraction of returns from these smart factories are expected to be of unprecedented scale. Besides, lower costs and faster turnaround, the new technologies powered by artificial intelligence and advanced automation will create new business models and opportunities. Digital transactions will not only fully dominate the enterprise level, but also in personal exchange. 3D printing services will be ubiquitous soon enough and autonomous cars will be the new king of the road.

The Drive for the Driver-less

The race is on among the auto giants to drive the first commercially viable driver-less car into the market place. The first mover advantage is certainly rewarding. Ask Toyota about hybrid cars. Since introducing the Prius in 1997, they have been the market leader. It was reported that in 2016, Japan shipped out 1.64 million hybrid cars. Of which, 1.4 million have the Toyota badge. The hybrid car sale is expected to enjoy a 16% compound growth over the next two years.

An excerpt from the President’s message, at Toyota’s website clearly shows that one of the world’s largest corporations is gearing up to reap the promise of Industry 4.0.

In the fourth paragraph, Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor declares to the world, “Our circumstances are likely to change in the future and there is increasing uncertainty in societal trends. At the same time, automobiles themselves are reaching a critical turning point.

Since its foundation, Toyota has grown through pioneering innovation. In January this year we established Toyota Research Institute, Inc. to accelerate research and development of *Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, a key to future society. It is an integrated part of our ‘purpose driven investments’ “

The promise of the fourth industrial revolution. It’s not a small promise. Accenture’s report in 2015 estimated that $ 14.2 trillion will be added to the world economy over the next 15 years from Industry 4.0 initiatives.

Profound Changes in Life and Livelihood

Key challenges to the new economy include those involving cyber security and intellectual property management. The risk is up with extreme digitization; getting every fiber of the manufacturing processes connected through the Internet of Things (IoT), and deploying sensor based data collection cyber-physical systems.

The benefits of the Industry 4.0 technologies seem worthy of taking the risks. Big data collection is key to smart decision making. With the advancement in powerful analytics the systems can trawl through higher data complexities, at greater volume with better velocity. This capability allows real time insights, enabling greater precision and faster execution.

In its white paper, “Extreme automation and connectivity: The global, regional, and investment implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” UBS researchers note that the level of success, a nation can garner from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, will be determined by how an economy and labor force adapt to the changing economic structure.

The promise of Industry 4.0

Klaus Schwab, the Chairman of World Economic Forum issues a warning; Industry 4.0 is fundamentally different from previous industrial revolutions. It is not just a change in digital technology. It is not just an emphasis on robotic technology, or a focus on genetic technology. It is a fusion of technologies and their interaction across the physical, digital and biological domains. It will fundamentally change the way we work. Also, the way we live. “The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril,” he asserts. Like the warning cry of this pandemic; a new norm looming. Life and livelihood will take on new constructs. Our dependency on technologies increases and technologies’ dependency on us shrinks. We have to find a way in order to balance the equation in our favor. If, we are to flourish.

A common thread in relevant discussions is the concern for the lack of desired skill sets. Many experts lament that the education systems are evolving much slower than skill-set demands of Industry 4.0

The change will be massive. Depending on where you read it, 50% of current jobs will be obsoleted in the new economy. Moderates think that the estimate is closer to 25%.

Cheap Low Skilled Labor won't Work

It’s not all gloom and doom on the job front. An optimistic estimate points to a fourfold increase in jobs. In the same breath, the analysts warn that the new jobs will not be low skilled or routine chores. Tasks that are a snap for the robots.

Chu Jenn Weng, CEO of Vitrox Corporation, a Penang bred high tech automated inspection solutions provider shares the sentiment;

“Yes, on one hand, all these repetitive low- end jobs will be replaced by robots and automated equipment. On the other hand, more jobs will be created to build robots, to analyze data, to go into the services industry, and so on. That’s how we move on into a high-income economy.”

(Source: Penang Monthly, July 2017)

UBS admits that it is “usually difficult to envision today what the jobs of the future might be.”  The EU Research on Industry 4.0 states that “the digital skills required are of a much higher caliber and a more interdisciplinary character than those required for basic digital literacy.”

STEM Yourself Up

For the new work environment, the call from hiring managers will be for people with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Mastering one of these subjects itself, would not make you elegant, nor highly desirable. The need for seamless collaboration, effective analytical skills across wide domains and the flexibility to move from projects to projects, demands knowledge as varied as the spectrum of STEM disciplines.

The aptitudes desired are curiosity, creativity, the passion to make things better and the ability to see the big picture. A view in the silo of a single discipline is no more credible in the new norm.
The certainty in the uncertainty; low skilled and routine jobs, including those in the mid-levels, will be yielded to robots and other extreme automation devices. Smart grids, clouds and block chains will be the new critical infrastructures. Intellectual properties, which are vulnerable to plunder, will be the dominant asset.

What is Industry 4.0

Future work will revolve around being responsive to an environment of heightened and widened connectivity driven, by the ubiquity of mobile devices with huge processing power and storage capacity. The speed of shared intelligence is the winner’s edge. It is predicted that most of the skills we learn at school today will be obsolete by 2025, when the winners and losers of Industry 4.0 would identify themselves.

You would want to be ready and able. Otherwise...
It’s not a “Kodak moment” to look forward to. Don't you agree?

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